My dirty little secret

One of the reasons that I left my job was to finally break free from the deepest layer of low self-esteem that I hadn’t yet chipped away at.

This probably makes no sense at first blush.

Why would I need to quit my job to work on myself?

Here’s the thing, for years and years I was able to be one of the star performers on my team without dealing with any of my deeply buried self-worth issues.

Sure I had worked through many layers of my own self-doubt over the course of my life, but I knew there was more.

It was my dirty little secret.

My low self-esteem still lurked underneath the surface in certain interactions, assignments, and meetings… and boy did I know how to hide it well.

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“Can you come see me in my office?”

I got into work that morning and received the single most dreaded voicemail message that you can get from your boss… “Can you come see me in my office as soon as you get here?”

I could tell from his tone that something was up.

And it wasn’t good.

My mind started racing…

What could it be?

Did something blow up on one of my cases?

Was there a big new crisis in the organization that we needed to help out with?

Was it that presentation I kiiiiiiiiind of didn’t edit properly?

Or maybe I was reading too much into things and he simply wanted to chat about something innocuous like planning the Christmas party.

The suspense was killing me.

After briefly contemplating faking my own death… I headed over to his office with a notepad (and a subtle sense of dread).

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The Archer: A Zen Parable About the Most Critical Leadership Skill

After winning several archery contests, a rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer.

The champion demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split the arrow with his second shot.

“There,” he said to the Zen master, “see if you can match that!”

Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the champion to follow him up the mountain.

Curious about the master’s intentions, the champion followed him high up into the mountains until they reached a deep chasm spanned by a rather flimsy log.

Calmly stepping out into the middle of the perilous bridge, the master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit.

“Now it is your turn,” he said, as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground.

Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless abyss, the champion could not force himself to step out onto the log, no less shoot at the target.

“You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.” 

This little parable explains why I focus on helping leaders learn how to handle difficult situations better than I’ve ever been able to do so.

We all face countless challenges in the workplace every single day. People rub us the wrong way, workloads become overwhelming, stumbling blocks and delays test our patience… to name but a few.

The emotional brain records everything. When leaders handle difficult situations poorly, people remember and respond accordingly.

So let me ask you… when challenges arise in your workplace, how ready, willing, and able are you to calmly step into the middle of that perilous bridge and focus your mind so that you can make the shot?

This is the only way you’ll reach your goal of cultivating a high performing team with healthy interpersonal relationships… or whatever your particular end goal may be.

It takes discipline and practice to reach this level of self-mastery.

And that practice needs to happen when everything seems to be falling apart, not when things are easy.

So the next time that life at work goes haywire, ask yourself, “What is this situation providing me the opportunity to practice?”

And then practice that.

Because every fiber of my being believes that we all have a Zen master hidden within us… just waiting for the opportunity to emerge and light the way for others.

3 Life Coaching Questions Leaders Need to Ask Themselves Regularly

Every next level of your life will demand a different version of you.

Anonymous

My life coach training is foundational to the work that I do as an executive and leadership coach because helping people shift their approach to situations in the workplace requires MUCH more than simply learning new strategies.

Personal growth and development makes us become a different person… the person we are meant to be. 

As much as many of us would love to escape to a mountain top and figure out how to self-actualize in isolation, surrounded by nothing but the sound of trees and birds (myself included!)… real life doesn’t work that way.

So, instead we need to bring mountain top moments to our day-to-day routines.

And that’s actually not a bad thing because we tend to learn and grow best by working through how to effectively be “in relationship” with others… hence my never-ending fascination with difficult conversations, disagreements, and conflict resolution in the workplace.

If this resonates with you on some level, then you probably already know that our most profound experiences of personal growth aren’t easy… but they’re not meant to be. We’re hardwired to seek out stability and generally dislike change, especially when that change requires us to make fundamental shifts to how we show up in the world.

Beyond this, dealing with certain people in the workplace can be incredibly frustrating. We all have our own special blend of triggers. And, of course, it goes without saying that we’re all absolutely just as frustrating to certain other people.

[Side note: As a former conflict-avoider who still has the occasional relapse, it took me MANY years to come to terms with this last sentence. Figuring out how to rock the boat when needed, make your peace with people being annoyed with you, and still look for ways to maintain the relationship takes a commitment to self-awareness and mastery that will have you working harder than any job you’ve ever held. So if you’re struggling with this particular sentence, I hear ya!]

But if you’re a seeker… and if you’ve read this far, I suspect you are… somewhere deep inside, you know that the only way out is through. 

And this is why you’re willing to face the the “icky” emotions and real-world consequences that will ensue when you finally decide to step into the next version of yourself that your particular life path is demanding of you.

So, let me ask you 3 questions that will help you define your next level and stay on track with your higher purpose (whatever that may be), especially when you’re feeling stuck in the weeds:

(1) How do you want your workplace to be different because you were in it?

(2) How do you want to be different because of what you learned through being in your workplace?

(3) What can you do today that takes you in the direction of your goals?

Please know that your fellow seekers, such as myself, are cheering you on 🙂

Self-care Is a Leadership Competency

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” – Lao Tzu

I’ve had many jobs over the course of my career. I was a family law lawyer, a human rights investigator, a workplace mediator… to name but a few of my wild and wonderful forays into the search for a meaningful career.

But being a coach is the one that I feel is the most personally rewarding… and accordingly the one that carries with it the most responsibility.

I have the privilege of getting to know people at a level that they don’t readily go to with others. My clients share their deepest hopes, their biggest fears, and their most painful insecurities with me.

Part of my job is helping people to feel safe enough to open up in this way so that we can work together on moving them forward. And this can’t be done unless I know what’s actually going on inside their heads… and their hearts.

Given the above, in most of my coaching engagements, the topic of self-care comes up periodically… because wrestling with your inner demons is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage, it takes humility, and most of all, it takes self-compassion.

Knowing how to take care of yourself emotionally and physically as you embark upon this journey of inner excavation is critical to its ultimate success.

Self-care is an underdeveloped muscle (or competency if you will) for many of us. And some coachees discover along the way that it holds the key to every other leadership skill they want to work on. 

It’s also one of the topics that can be covered in the themed group coaching series that I run for organizations. As much as I love helping clients gain insight into the importance of self-care, I see even more value in having small groups of leaders talk through their strengths, opportunities for growth, and action steps together as they flex their coaching muscles with each other.

There’s something about creating a supportive leadership network that can’t be replaced by any one individual (in my humble opinion).

So the next time that’s you’re wondering whether you “should” make time to see your friends, block off a few hours to read a novel, or spend part of your morning at the gym (or doing yoga and wondering when everything started to hurt so much, like I was this morning), keep in mind that the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation… and that this can’t happen unless you take care of YOU.

If this topic or approach to coaching speaks to you, send me a message!

Much of my work as a coach and facilitator is done online, so location is never an issue. Individual coaching objectives and group coaching themes are developed through a collaborative process so that everyone is on board with what will be covered. (Other possible group coaching topics include how to bring out the best in employees, talent management, creating healthy team dynamics, having difficult conversations, leading through change, etc. The sky is literally the limit!)

I’d love to connect with you about how I can support you or your team so that more people can bring their best selves to work… every. single. day.